But I didn’t. Every time I sat down to read something I’d been wanting to read, I couldn’t do it. After nine months of writing, I just couldn’t look at words anymore.
So, I took two weeks to relax, take walks, see movies, watch TV shows, meet up with friends, practice qigong, and generally, just rest. It was wonderful.
Now, it’s November. I signed up for NaNoWriMo and was excited to start working on my next novel, the sequel to The Contenders. I’ve taken notes on the story’s armature, and drafted the one-sentence summary and back cover summary. But in a span of a week, I’ve only worked on the story for two days. Now, my motivation is all squishy. All I want to do is wrap myself up in a blanket and read. My eyes want to devour words again, but now I can’t.
Because now I feel bad.
Like Billy Crystal’s character says in the movie, Throw Momma From the Train, “Writers write.”
Except when we’re not writing.
Then we feel bad.
Even when we’re not actually writing words of a novel, we’re still planning and plotting and musing over our stories in our heads.
That percolation time is crucial. I know that without it, I couldn’t have written anything of substance. I certainly couldn’t have written my first novel or my second novel. I need time to think about my story, dream about my characters, listen to music that makes me think of my characters and my story, take long walks while I think about my story, and take notes here and there about what I discover.
But I keep thinking I should be writing.
I should not be reading and musing and dreaming and thinking and marinating.
And the more I think this way, the more I don’t want to write or work on anything.
Guilt does not help the creative process.
I’ve read that the best thing you can do after writing a draft is to put it aside and then start working on a new novel. Don’t look at your completed draft–you need time away from it to give you perspective. That makes total sense to me and it’s worked for me in the past. Time away from my completed draft has definitely helped me to see it with fresh eyes when I was ready to rewrite and revise.
But the advice about starting on another novel right away, that’s the part that’s not gelling with me. It sounds good. And I thought I’d be able to do it since I’ve been thinking about the sequel to The Contenders for years now, but, it’s not working out that way.
I’m still finding my way to the creative process that works best for me. I do know that when a story builds up, up, and up in me, I reach a critical point where I have to sit down and write. I try to get as many notes about it down on paper, but eventually, the whole thing builds up so much in my psyche that I have to let it out.
But in the meantime, it seems to help to read and muse and dream and think and marinate. It seems to be my process. I’m not just being lazy. Or being a procrastinator.
I’m realizing that this in-between time after I’ve finished one novel draft and haven’t started the next one is an important time of rest and renewal. I know deep down that this resting time will eventually lead to more innovation and creativity in the future. I thought it would only take me two weeks to rest, but now I realize that I need more time.
Wow. It feels good to write that down!
It feels good to say what I’m truly feeling in my heart as truth, rather than berating myself for not living up to some ideal of what a writer is supposed to be.
Instead of plying myself with reason and logic, I’m going to surrender to what feels right.
Rest feels right. Right now.
So that’s what I’m going to do.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle.